Are you taking note? – A story of bugs and jotting things down

It’s our job as testers to observe, respond and communicate. Sometimes it can help us all by taking this awesome skill into the real world and sharing it.

I’ve caught myself many times complaining or trying to explain problems and bugs that I come across in real life systems. Observing and thinking about other people’s problems can be quite refreshing and putting pen to paper can actually help you think a bit more out of the box.

Introducing My New Best Friend

What is it with our brains? I keep saying to myself that I don’t need to write THAT down, I’m sure I’ll remember IT. But when I need IT I find my memory fails to remember. And I proceed with a head bang wall scenario.

I confess to being a recent Evernote convert. It’s so awesomely getting me into great habits of note taking. And note taking in this day and age is more than just scribbling on a piece of paper.

Anyone can take note of all sorts of things, nothing new there, but if you are anything like me you won’t carry a notebook and pen wherever you go, you are more likely to have a smart phone, tablet or laptop with you. And that is what Evernote is great for – digital note taking.

Why take notes?

In addition to the obvious: practicing writing will naturally make you a better writer.  It can be incredibly useful and insightful to keep note of things we come across or think about.  This could apply to anyone, but I do think it is especially useful for testers.

Logging your life. Your projects. Whatever it is. Mash it all together. Add photos. Videos. Bookmark links. Churn out some thoughts. Bring it together into one searchable place, accessible from almost everywhere.

Do not rely on your brain. Apart from forgetting things, your brain plays tricks.

I’m currently using it for:

  • writing a book
  • generally just writing down thoughts – ideas, observations, things I see and like.
  • archiving selective tweets via ifttt.com
  • writing a newspaper with the family (text & pictures) content added via my MacBook, iPad and iPhone (and yes we do plan to get it printed out like The Testing Planet 🙂 )
  • draft blog posts (easier than logging into wordpress)
  • draft communications (rather than having multiple notepad files open)
  • taking photos of things I like or inspire me then adding it as a note
  • bookmarking links and snippets of online content

Evernote has been great for this.

My Workliday Observations

I recently went on a workliday. That’s what I call a mostly holiday whilst keeping on top of important things at ‘work’.

I also had my 11 month old son with me. He had been difficult to get to sleep in a different cot and environment every few days, so we opted for the walking and getting him to sleep in the buggy. Not ideal, but it got the job done.

It meant walking up and down a few hotel hallways.

The Sheraton in Florida was first. Not much to report there. Everything in those types of hotels are pretty nice and very much adhere to acceptable conformity.

But then we stopped in a Great Western hotel in Charleston. A bit of a drop in classy-ness from the Sheraton, which was to be expected (I think it was a 2 or 3 star), but the hallway walks got a bit interesting, for me at least.

For your reference, here is the hallway I walked up and down several times:

Photo 05-04-2012 05 20 50
Photo taken from my iPhone and added to Evernote straight away

I had to walk up and down this hallway several times. I got a bit bored and started looking at things in more detail. That was when I noticed that many of the rooms had different door layouts. And of course I had to take some pictures, smiling as I was going.

And Then The Bugs Appeared

“I see bugs! I see bugs!” was all that was going through my mind.

Here is what I saw. I took more photos and added them to Evernote so I could analyse and hopefully write about it later.

Photo 04-04-2012 19 20 56 Photo 05-04-2012 05 20 20 Photo 04-04-2012 20 10 47 Photo 04-04-2012 20 10 58 Photo 04-04-2012 20 12 00 Photo 05-04-2012 05 20 15

They are all doors in the hallway of the hotel. Yet all of them are different. It got me wondering – which one is the correct one? Which one fits the spec? If it were a project I was working on, which doors would fail the tests?

I came to the conclusion that the first door was probably the best of the lot and if I were raising bugs or querying this matter with someone I probably would have raised bugs against the other 5.

Why the first door?

There were about 30 rooms on the floor and at least 20 of them looked like the first door. Sure, the door is far from perfect, but I deemed it as fit for purpose.

But then I got thinking, are the others really bugs?

If I was to raise an issue against the defected doors would anyone take notice of my concern?

Did it matter?

  • I then started wondering whether these ‘defects’ actually mattered.
  • Did it put customers off coming back?
  • Did it make their experience of staying there a bad one?
  • Did anyone raise any complaints? To management? Online?
  • It had a 2/3 star rating according to a website, we knew that, did we get what we paid for?

I ended up concluding, just for myself, that the other doors didn’t matter.

  • The one without a number probably wasn’t a room.
  • The hotel was clean.
  • I’m pretty sure everyone could actually find their room.
  • The customer service was good.
  • It met my expectations as a customer.

Of course it would have been different if the hotel was 5 star rated and we had paid more money. But that’s kind of the point. Businesses exist is many different forms, with many different customer needs. As testers we need to understand this and spend our time wisely.  Every bug we raise not only costs the business for our time but it also has a knock on effect through the whole business.

We can shout and brag about our super duper bug finding skills, but raising bugs does not always provide value to a business.

4 comments on “Are you taking note? – A story of bugs and jotting things down

  1. -

    I love this post! I have experienced the same thing in Hotels! I have shouted “Bugs everywhere” and freaked my partner out … as i did not mean real bugs of course

  2. -

    I love this post! I have experienced the same thing in Hotels! I have shouted “Bugs everywhere” and freaked my partner out … as i did not mean real bugs of course

  3. -

    Great one. This reminds me to one of my own Test Patterns (some call it heuristics). Sotfware is often not consistent when reporting errors and also in doing similar. A business function invoked from in the UserInterface may trigger different business validation rules or access control routines as if it was triggered through an API like a WebService.
    I have categorized this pattern internally under “Consistency” and your pictures of the doors are a great visualization of this pattern.

  4. -

    Great one. This reminds me to one of my own Test Patterns (some call it heuristics). Sotfware is often not consistent when reporting errors and also in doing similar. A business function invoked from in the UserInterface may trigger different business validation rules or access control routines as if it was triggered through an API like a WebService.
    I have categorized this pattern internally under “Consistency” and your pictures of the doors are a great visualization of this pattern.

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